Monday, August 06, 2007

Once Upon an Interview: Janni Lee Simner

I've been doing way too much talking about myself lately. Even I'm sick of hearing about me. So today, I'm going to talk about someone else for a change. Welcome to the latest installment of Once Upon an Interview, a recurring segment on Sarah's Journal in which I ask other writers about my favorite obsession: fairy tales.

Today's author interview is with Janni Lee Simner. Janni's fourth children's book, Secret of the Three Treasures, was recently published by Holiday House. She's also published more than 30 short stories, and her first young adult novel, Bones of Faerie, will be published by Random House in 2009.


What is your favorite fairy tale?
Do the ballads count? I find both Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer deeply compelling.

Among act
ual fairy tales (rather than tales of Faerie), I'm intrigued by The Twelve Dancing Princesses. I mean, if your father locked you and your sisters into your bedroom every night, wouldn't you sneak out to dance, too? I imagine one of the princesses explaining to the reader, "The wonder isn't that we left at night; it's that we ever came home, at all."

Do you (either consciously or subconsciously) use fairy-tale themes or motifs in your writing?

More and more often, it seems. Last October I had a story in Cricket ("Heart's Desire") about a bookish Cinderella who'd rather stay home and read than go to the ball. (And who can blame her?) I don't know that I've used fairy tales that directly anywhere else, but when I wrote my story for Gothic! Ten Original Dark Tales ("Stone Tower"), my editor pointed out that it had Rapunzel-like elements. Which is funny, because I wasn't thinking about that when I wrote the story, but looking back, it's pretty obvious. I mean, the story begins with a girl locked in a tower!

I probably use Faerie (in the sense of those ballads) a lot more--the folks who steal children and work magic by moonlight and report to the Queen of Air and Darkness and such. I can't seem to get enough of them, and I recently sold a young adult novel that deals with them.

My current children's book, Secret of the Three Treasures, draws on a different tradition, though--that of the artifact-recovering, ruins-exploring, tomb-raiding Indiana Jones-style pulp adventurer. But that's a sort of fairy tale, too. :-)

If the protagonist of your most recent novel met Cinderella’s fairy godmother, what would he or she do/say?

Whip out her list of demands, of course! Tiernay West (the protagonist of Secret of the Three Treasures) has her three wishes all lined up:

- Transport to someplace more interesting than her ordinary Connecticut hometown. (Marrakesh, perhaps. Or Vladivostok. Or--since surely distance means nothing to a fairy godmother--Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.)

- A mysterious stranger looking to hire an adventurer of her considerable skills.

- And (since fairy godmothers are into the whole clothing thing), proper outfitting for her adventure: sturdy boots, khaki jeans, vest with many pockets, GPS, magical pocketk
nife, the works. She'll bring her own hat, though. An adventurer always brings her own hat.

But if that fairy godmother started in with the whole business about glass slippers and fancy dresses and getting to the ball? Tiernay would look at her through narrowed eyes and ask, "Did my Mom send you?"

What would your protagonist do/say if he or she met Little Red Riding Hood's wolf?

"Tiernay West, professional adventurer, at your service! Grandmothers to be found? Dark woods to be explored? I'm on it!"

What would you do/say if you met a fairy godmother or talking wolf?
To the fairy godmother: "You leave that Cinderella alone. She's just fine the way she is!"

To the wolf (from a safe distance): "Okay, I'm listening. Tell me your side of the story."

If you could be
any fairy-tale character, which one would you want to be?

The old woman at the fork in the road. Because she knows everything, she gets to be part of more than one story, and no one messes with her and gets away with it.

What does your (or your protagonist's) happily-ever-after look like?

After kicking back with a few root beers in her favorite smoky cafe, Tiernay heads off on her next adventure.

Because there will always be a next adventure, forever and ever and ever.


For more information about Janni Lee Simner, please visit her website at:

For more about the Secret of the Three Treasures, please visit:

Thanks so much for joining us here, Janni!



At 1:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ooh! Great interview! I'll have to check out The Three Wishes after I'm done reading Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer...That Cinderella sounds like one I could relate to easily...

At 10:45 AM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

Sookie: Yeah, I agree. I love Janni's idea of a bookish Cinderella. I'd far rather read a book than wear shoes that not only have high heels but could also shatter into a million sharp pieces!


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